It may be that we don’t need another line of pop hits remade by barely identifiable reality-show contestants or actors, when we already have more “American Idol” and “Glee” albums than America’s shrinking music-retail shelves can hold.
Actually, it’s certain that we don’t. But if the gods have decreed we have to have another cover-tune franchise, thank God it’s “The Voice,” whose credible coaches know first-hand that individuality of interpretation counts.
The breakout series' first full-length soundtrack, “The Voice: Season 1 The Highlights,” turns out to be an altogether listenable experience on its own “reality”-free terms. Part of the reason is that, on the surface, several of the 11 singers seem wrong for the material they’re singing — which is why things sometimes go so intriguingly right.
Do we really want to hear anyone other than Dolly Parton sing “Jolene”? (Besides the White Stripes?) Hardly, but the case is easier to make with someone whose voice is the opposite of crystalline Dolly’s — that being, in this case, Vicci Martinez’s slightly cracked, more R&B-rooted tones.
Usually the singers on “Idol” are trying to out-brass the originals, so it’s a delight to hear Xenia offering a sweeter, more relaxed take on “Price Tag” than Jessie J, the originating British diva, did. (In this case, it may help not to have watched the show; Xenia’s live performing skills, or the alleged lack thereof, were supposedly what got her voted off early, but on record, her contribution may be the album’s most instantly appealing.)
Nirvana’s “Come as You Are” wasn’t made for as wistful and free-range a warbler as Rebecca Loebe, but even if you believe all too well that she “don’t have a gun,” she’s packing an alternative approach that suits Kurt Cobain’s former surliness just fine.
Of course, when it comes to Kanye West's "Heartless," any interpreter who isn’t blatantly singing through Autotune’s electronic filtering would be radically breaking from form. It’s a bit of a stunt to turn his electro-lament into a more traditional ballad, but runner-up Dia Frampton finds the heart in West’s seething.
While series winner Javier Colon doesn’t take many chances with the tune that introduced him, “Time After Time,” you’d be hard-pressed to argue that even Cyndi Lauper’s iconic version has anything in loveliness on his tender vocal or, especially, its bare-bones arrangement.
The album isn’t all about departure: Frenchie Davis’ “When Love Takes Over” couldn’t skew much closer to the minor David Guetta original. But Davis arguably brings more vocal character to the dance track than Guetta’s guest, Kelly Rowland, did, which is merit enough for its inclusion.
If you didn’t watch the series and weren’t invested in the cast, listening to the “Voice Highlights" album won’t change your musical life, but it should at least change your viewing habits next season.